Exclusive: Rooney on Derby, United and Solskjaer
From the moment he joined Derby County, Manchester United were the team Wayne Rooney wanted to be drawn against in this season's Emirates FA Cup.
As you can read in the full Q&A below, Rooney reflects happily on his time with DC United in MLS and provides a fascinating insight into his recent move to the Championship, before offering his assessment on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the progress that he is making as United manager. So what are you waiting for? Get stuck into our exclusive catch-up between two old friends…
Thanks for coming in today, Wayne. First of all, what has it been like since you've been back in England and playing with Derby?
“It's been nice, Wes. Obviously, it was a good experience to go out to the States and play there, playing football in a different culture and country. But to be back home has been nice and playing with Derby in the Championship has been good. We've been in good form of late and hopefully that continues, so we can have a push to the play-offs.”
“I think Derby is a club that has shown over the last few years in particular how good their ambitions are. They are trying to take that next step by getting into the Premier League. I spoke to them and it was important to me to have a coaching role, to put me onto that next step and transition from player to coach. Derby was the best fit and it has been going well, I am enjoying it.”
I'd love to see you as a manager by the way! But you're a coach at the moment, so what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
“Obviously, it is with the first team. I am not putting sessions on because I am still training. But all of the organisation, all of the preparation, for whoever we are playing, the opponents, with the video analysis, the meetings with the staff, I am involved with all of them, trying to give us the best preparation for the games at the weekend or in midweek.”
“Yeah, I have always naturally been quite fit...”
“Yeah, you know that [laughs]! So I have played for 90 minutes in all of the games barring one. It is a different role that I have been playing in as well, I have been playing in a midfield role, and physically it is no problem.”
You scored in the FA Cup fourth-round replay to set up this fifth-round tie against United. Are you looking forward to it?
“I can't wait! Obviously, the draw, the one team I wanted was Manchester United. We were on the coach, actually, going to the hotel the night before a game when the draw was taking place and there was a cheer when United came out. It is a great draw for us, having United come to our ground and for the fans it is a great game to go to. For us as a team it is a great challenge for us to come up against Manchester United, to see if we can beat them. It is a challenge but it is something we are all looking forward to.”
How are you going to feel, facing United? I have done it with Sunderland and it was so weird, because you have a history at United. You are the top goalscorer and the club is going to love you forever! So, if you score, are you going to celebrate?
“Yeah, of course [laughs]. My time at Manchester United, I loved every minute of it. I am a Derby County player now and I want to win with Derby County. For that 90 minutes, or 120 minutes, obviously I want Manchester United to lose. Everyone will understand that I want Derby to win in this game and after that I will go back to being a Manchester United fan and wanting them to win.”
Very good answer! Now, Ole is now the manager and he's an old team-mate, so how will you be when you first see him as the boss?
“I have seen Ole a few times now that he's been in the job and it will be nice to see him, Michael Carrick and a few of the players I played with who are still there. It will be nice to see them and catch up after the game, to have a chat. But this is a game that is a big opportunity for us to go into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, and obviously for Manchester United, there is this and the Europa League where they have a chance to win a trophy this season, so we know that they won't be taking it lightly.”
“Yeah it was good for me. It was important for me to go out there and have that experience, having been in the Premier League for my whole career where you get a lot of things done for you - and MLS is completely different to that. Obviously, now I'm in the Championship as well, these experiences will help me when I do go into a managerial role.”
What's the biggest difference? When I watch it, I think that it's a bit slower but everybody looks fit and quick. They look like good athletes, so would you say it is the tactical side?
“Yeah, without doubt. Everyone there is a fit, strong, good athlete, but that tactical awareness is not at the level that European football is at. It is getting better. There are some very good South American players in the league and some good American players also, so it is getting better. I said when I left that there are a lot of changes they have to make, to make sure they keep pushing forward.”
Which is the best dressing room you have been in – Everton, Manchester United, DC United or Derby?
“Without doubt it was the Manchester United one. I was there for so many years and to be in there with team-mates, but also people who you keep in touch with as friends.”
Something I wanted to ask you was... when you played for us, you used to get a bit fiery, whereas I would be very calm. So, did my five-second rule ever come into your head when something went wrong on the pitch, or did you learn that with experience?
“I am still trying to learn it now at times. It actually came into play a couple of weeks ago when we played Luton away. I went in the dressing room and I absolutely erupted. I had to take myself away before I went too far. I took myself into the shower area and had a few seconds to myself.”
Finally, is the beard staying or is it going?
“I don't know. It is getting a bit long now. I will trim it, I don't know, but I think I will probably keep it.”
ROONEY’S LIGHTNING ROUND
See how Wayne answers Wesley’s quickfire questions…
Takeaway or home-cooked food?
Tea or coffee?
DC United or Manchester United?
Basketball or baseball?
Ski resort or beach resort?
“Ooh, I've never been skiing so at the minute I'd say beach, but I think that if I went skiing then I'd probably like skiing more.”
Action films or romantic comedies?
Paris or Rome?
Orange juice or apple juice?
Salmon or steak?
“Ooh, that's a tough one... steak!”
FA Cup or Champions League?
Burning somebody's shoes or a hot spoon to the neck?
“I have seen both so I think the best reaction was the hot spoon to the neck... of Fletch [Darren Fletcher], by the way!”
“There are two - Titanic and Shawshank Redemption.”
Best player you've played against?
Best player who has marked you?
“I am going to say John Terry.”
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